1

I'm having some trouble with the following sentence:

Since he had arrived, he had seen the rule broken more than once.

For some context, the text itself is a short story and I'm writing it in past tense. Does this mean that the presence of a past simple verb is "implicit", in a way, to the text itself? Does using the word "since" change anything (I know that it is usually supposed to be followed by a past simple verb, but I'm not sure of any exceptions to this)?

1

There's no such rule or principle as "since is usually supposed to be followed by a past simple verb".

The only relevant principle here is that repeatedly using past perfect unnecessarily can often be perceived as clumsy and excessively verbose. There's nothing actually wrong with OP's example, provided it's in a context where the primary narrative reference time is later than both the arrival and subsequent observations of rule-breaking...

1: He wasn't surprised. Since he had arrived, he had seen the rule broken more than once.

Note that since there means after [some specified time] not because [of some specified fact]. Thus it's contextually obvious that he arrived before seeing the rules being broken, but his lack of surprise occurred after seeing that (at the "narrative time").

In such contexts it's perfectly natural for native speakers to dispense with the first use of past perfect, since (because! :) it's not really necessary (because since specifies the chronological sequence)...

2: He wasn't surprised. Since he arrived, he had seen the rule broken more than once.


In short, both versions are perfectly "grammatical", but many if not most native speakers wouldn't bother with the first instance of past perfect, for the sake of simplicity and clarity.

0

Since he had arrived, he had seen the rule broken more than once.

I don't think there is anything technically wrong with this, but it does feel just a little "off" to me.

A better phrasing might be :

Since he arrived, he had seen the rule broken more than once.

or

Since his arrival, he had seen the rule broken more than once.

  • "Using 'since' with this wording would make it mean 'because'" - I don't get that implication at all. – stangdon Nov 17 '15 at 16:04
  • @stangdon I edited to clarify. – Kevin Nov 17 '15 at 16:07
  • I don't believe there's any justification for saying such use of since is "non-standard". Native speakers would rarely if ever be confused about the intended meaning, which should always be both contextually and syntactically obvious. Besides, if you wanted to "spoon-feed" your audience, you could always precede it by ever. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 17 '15 at 21:32
  • The more I read it, the less awkward it looks. Still doesn't feel natural to me. – Kevin Nov 18 '15 at 13:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.